Blood supplies nationwide are at critically low levels - | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Blood supplies nationwide are at critically low levels

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A press release from United Blood Services said there is a critical blood shortage nationwide. Erin Baker with United Blood Services said blood supplies across the country are at dangerously low levels.

Donations from O-negative donors, the universal blood type, are at nearly half of the ideal quantity needed to support local patients. St. Vincent Healthcare blood management coordinator Michelle Nelson said St. Vincent is trying to be proactive in making sure blood donations are available when needed to avoid a panic situation.

Nelson said if someone were to donate blood today, it would be too late for someone who might need the blood that very same day because it takes two to three days for donated blood to process and test donated units.. She said donated blood lasts for up to 45 days until it expires and that's why blood donations are always needed. She also said it's normal to have a blood shortage around this time of year and explained why.

"This is the time of year where there's a lot of individuals that are on vacation," Nelson said. "There's a lot of traumas, people are out on the road, and there's car accidents. That type of thing. I think that it's very important that individuals go in and try to attempt to donate to help replenish that stock of donation."

St. Vincent Healthcare sees a 40% decrease in donors during the summer and from holidays between Thanksgiving to mid-January. Surveys of St. Vincent's donors show the decrease is due to students not being in school, which are their strongest blood drives.

Nelson said if someone were to need blood right away, as of right now, the hospital would be able to provide it, but that doesn't mean blood isn't needed.

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